The One in the Shadows
The invitation came as a surprise. The PTA in a nearby town requested that he speak to parents on the impact of comic books on children. He taught English in a junior high school in Detroit, and had definite ideas on the topic so he accepted the invitation, still wondering why they asked him.
Sue dressed carefully, excited to see him again after all these years. Would he remember her? She stopped to kiss the kids and tell them to be good and gave her husband a quick hug before she rushed out the door.
The warmth of her home seemed to wrap around her as she hurried to the car. Thanking God for the riches of her life, she started the car and drove to the meeting.
While she drove, she looked back, wondering when the bad dreams began to fade. She thought about the dingy apartments they lived in when she was little, the horror of hearing her father slam open the door and yell at her mother. When the fighting started, she cowered under the covers, trembling until finally she heard his loud snores from the old couch and her mother quiet whimpering.
Mom never talked about it the next day. She kept the dark secrets hidden, refusing to talk about the bruises. One day, Sue came home from school and found Mom tossing pans and clothes into cardboard boxes.
“Aunt Ann is picking us up in about five minutes,” Mom said. “We’re out of here.”
For the next few years, they moved from one squalid place to another, leaving just ahead of the landlord. Then Mom met a man at the bar and they moved in with him.
Sue shivered, thinking about him. Ken was ten times worse than her dad had ever been. He not only knocked Mom around when he was drunk but also kept trying to get his dirty hands on her.
She pulled into the school parking lot, locked her car and headed for the meeting. I wonder if he is here yet, she thought, glancing at her watch.
People filed in and found seats. Several stood around the coffee pot talking with a tall heavy set man with a friendly smile. There he is, she thought. A warm glow filled her chest. He looked the same, a little less hair and a few more pounds, but she knew it was him. Would he remember her?
I’ll wait, she thought. I’ll talk to him after the meeting.
The chairman introduced him, explaining that Mr. Douglas taught English and would be speaking on the impact of comic books. He won the crowd over with an impish smile and a few funny comments. The main goal was to get kids to read, he said. Let them start with the comics and then lead them to good books.
Afterward, Sue walked over to where he stood at the refreshment table chatting with a young mom. He turned at her and smiled, but she knew he did not recognize her.
She introduced herself and told him, “You are responsible for me getting married.”
He looked at her in amazement, still wondering who she was.
“I was in your English class at Nolan Junior High, and in the drama club,” she said.
He remembered her now, a quiet student on the fringe of the group, the one in the shadows. He tried to imagine how that sad girl became the confident young woman in front of him.
“I had decided all men were evil,” she said. “My dad was a drunk and mean to my mother. Then she married a man who was even worse. I didn’t want anything to do with men. When I met you, I realized all men were not like the ones my mother married, and I started dating. You changed my life!”
On the way home, he thought about this in wonder, remembering other students, the lively ones, the showoffs. Here was a quiet one whose whole life changed because of him.
He felt renewed excitement when the students filed into the classroom the next day. The class clown and the beauty queen always stood out. Now he looked for the quiet ones who needed confidence to grow. He called the class to order, ready to start a new day.
God's servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey.
- 2 Timothy 2:24 - The Message
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